Karl Lagerfeld’s right, sort of
Fashion icon Karl Lagerfeld was off the mark when he said only “fat mummies” object to skinny models on the catwalk, but his point about the growing pressure to put “real” women in magazines and fashion shows wasn’t so crazy.
Ladies if you want to look at a “real” woman, stand in front of the bathroom mirror, then ask yourself “do I belong on the pages of a fashion magazine?” I’d hazard a guess the answer is “No!”
That doesn’t mean you’re not gorgeous, beautiful, very sexy even. It just means that on the odd occasion we fork out $10 for a glossy, if we’re stuck looking at people just like us we’ve done our dough.
Body image is a tricky thing. There are those who argue the fashion industry is responsible for an epidemic of eating disorders.
Some say yummy mummies like Nicole Ritchie are putting too much pressure on women to lose weight after pregnancy. And others point to starlets like Miley Cyrus and say she’s why my six-year-old wants a bra.
There’s arguments to support all these theses, but it’s not as simple as skinny bad, curvy good - fantasy bad, real good.
Last month commentators including Mia Freedman sang halleluja when American Glamour magazine published a picture of a woman with her belly hanging out. It didn’t have the same effect on me. I don’t feel a strong need to see other women’s flab.
I’m probably not the only one, which might explain why the picture was on page 194.
Lagerfeld’s somewhat bitchy comments were in response to the announcement by a German magazine that it’s January issue would feature only non-models.
He said: “These are fat mummies sitting with their bags of crisps in front of the television, saying that thin models are ugly.” He’s wrong on that point - there’s a world-wide, intelligent debate underway about body image and how to deal with it.
Freedman’s blog has a whole section on it, which covers a lot of the discussion.
Lagerfeld went on to say fashion was about: “dreams and illusions, and no one wants to see round women.” It’s an inelegantly put argument but it shouldn’t be immediately shouted down.
Imagine if our entire internal lives were all about reality. No dreams, no aspirations and no fantasies. For all but a few of us it would get pretty old pretty quickly.
When I shop for a lip gloss I don’t want someone whispering in my ear: Hey Tory, you do know that lip gloss isn’t going to make you look even a tiny bit more glamorous and sophisticated don’t you. And don’t even bother trying on that dress because the best you can hope for is “real”.
Based on nothing other than three decades of being female, having a mother, and having girlfriends, I reckon women’s self-esteem and body image is much more complicated than what we’re presented with by pop culture.
How your mother and father treated you as a kid, what your friends look like, how they act, and how your partner treats you, has a much greater influence over how you feel about yourself than any amount of photographs of Gisel Bundchen you may be exposed to.
Fantasies are not a bad thing. Mothers who worry about the effect they might have on their daughters just need to teach them there’s a difference between real and unreal.
Removing the fantasy altogether is not the answer.
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